GM Just Put Apple's Former Cloud Chief In Charge Of Its New Car Software Division

Several weeks ago, SlashGear reported on GM's controversial decision not to include popular Apple CarPlay/Android Auto technologies in its future electric vehicles. Though to be fair, some rival EV manufacturers such as Rivian and Tesla also eschew Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, in favor of first-party infotainment systems.

Today, GM appears to be doubling down on its decision to shift to in-house technology by announcing the hiring of former Apple executive Mike Abbott to head up the brand's software division. Abbott was most recently vice president of engineering at Apple's cloud services division, with prior stints at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, Twitter, Palm, and Microsoft.

While at Apple, "Abbott led a team responsible for the development of core infrastructure for all of Apple's cloud-based services including iCloud iMessage, Private Relay, Mail and account security. In addition to storage, networking and compute, his team created products for Apple's Education and Enterprise categories," cites the press release.

The official title for newly created position is Executive Vice president, Software, and per GM, Abbott will report directly to company Chair and CEO Mary Barra beginning on May 22.

Software's role in cars is ever-increasing

The importance of software and monetizing it has become an increasing focal point for automakers. Currently, electric vehicles are less profitable to legacy automakers like GM compared to gasoline-powered counterparts. However, automakers have discovered the potential for increased profits by upselling buyers with added features inherent to the vehicles' software, but must be unlocked by paying a recurring subscription fee.

Frequently, these subscription upgrades are related to performance, such as Mercedes' $1,200 per year "acceleration increase" that unlocks approximately 20% more power on select EVs — decreasing 0-60 mph acceleration by up to one second. BMW will activate the heated seats in EVs for the paltry sum of $18 per month. Other features available via what BMW terms as "microtransactions" include a heated steering wheel ($12 per month), and the ability to play fake engine sounds inside the car ($117 one-time fee). 

Besides generating revenue, effective software is also a necessity for executing smooth over-the-air upgrades, as well as addressing certain recalls remotely, without requiring a visit to dealership service departments. 

"We have entered the next phase of our technology driven transformation focused on rapidly scaling new EV models and our Ultifi software platform, which will drive faster innovation and enable new and exciting customer experiences," said GM CEO Mary Barra. "Mike's experience as a founder and entrepreneur coupled with his proven track record creating and delivering ... compelling software-defined solutions for consumers and companies make him an excellent fit at GM."